We live in a time of turmoil, violence, and mayhem. Like other such times in the history of the world, there is one central truth that dictates the increase in chaos.
We see it everywhere. Suspicion of “the other”. A pervasive pessimism that colors every thought and prevents even the possibility of building understanding. It is like a fever that has swept this world and is carrying everyone inexorably toward a cataclysmic, chaotic shattering of all that is good or wise or beautiful about this world. This fever is driving us all apart and locking peoples into paths of confrontation without opportunity for even hoping for common ground. This fever urges us to destroy “the other” like a spiritual version of rabies.
This fever has a name: distrust.
It is the natural born child of fear, that all destroying emotion second only to love in power. But even though love is stronger than fear, that does not mean that fear is powerless to quench love for a season, employing distrust to turn loving hearts into furnaces of hate.
But this is not a new story. It has been around since time began. In the words of the Teacher, son of David: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… a time to love and a time to hate.”
No, this is not new. Nothing under the Sun is new.
But, it is sad. This fever called distrust is always a sad fever, burning up the hearts and minds of everyone inflicted. But how do I know this fever’s name? How do I pronounce my diagnosis with such certainty?
Like any disease, this particular fever manifests one very distinctive symptom that is a certain tell. The distrust fever may start subtly, with people agreeing to disagree over matters of opinion, but over time, the sure fire symptom is that civility grows in shorter and shorter supply while the rhetoric grows increasingly hostile and personal. Finally, it reaches an unmistakable crescendo when facts themselves can no longer be agreed upon.
Welcome to full on, no holds barred, Annie grab your gun, chip on the shoulder, smash mouth hostility. This is distrust fever in full force. I’m talking 106 degree Fahrenheit, break the thermometer, brow scorching, brain frying FEVER.
And it does indeed make me sad. So many casualties. So little love.So little TRUST.
As I look at this sad world, caught up in this fever, one of the saddest symptoms I see in my own nation is the use of a phrase I keep seeing repeated over and over: “liberal mainstream media”. The very fact that the phrase is a literal oxymoron never even seems to occur to those uttering it. This is a fiction that has been put forth by those with a vested interest in sowing doubt and division in our society.
I can say this with absolutely no sense of superiority or condescension since for quite a while, I was one of the people repeating this phrase. And it wasn’t my own vastly superior intellect that rescued me from the clutches of the fever either. It was the very humbling experience of coming face to face with consequences wrought when good people, people I came to love, suffered because enough other good people chose to believe this phrase and, in doing so, abandoned balance, replete with all its messiness and occasional uncertainty, in favor of the friendly reassurance of rightness offered up like a big friendly hug out on the fringes of the wild frontiers of “news”.
These “guardians of the conservative truth” (yes, I know there are liberal sites also but they aren’t mainstream either) – where everyone marches to the same music and knows the secret handshake of the truly informed – make no bones about their agenda. Isn’t that refreshing. And by telling you that, they can then turn right around and tell you with a knowing wink, that ALL news organizations really have an agenda but only the honest ones admit it. Thus it follows, that since the mainstream media doesn’t admit their agenda and since their “balanced” news doesn’t always embrace the same “facts” as the honest, agenda driven conservative media, then they must, by default be… gasp!… “LIBERAL!” Oh, the shame. The scandal! The horror!!!
I won’t claim that there is no bias whatsoever in mainstream journalism (that would be absurd!) but I will most certainly maintain that the bias that does exist there falls both ways for the simple reason that reporters are human and humans are biased and do not all share the same inclinations. Mainstream journalist, while research has shown them to be slightly more to the left of center than the average citizen, are still far from being all a bunch of leftist radicals. Further, despite their personal biases, the mainstream media in this country has maintained a reputation for fairness rivaled by very few the world over. They are still the best source for getting relatively fair and balanced coverage of national news… if only anyone will listen
And I personally have less excuse for falling for the “liberal mainstream media” myth than most as having been, in a former life, both a student of journalism and, briefly, a practitioner. I witnessed up close and personal the ethos of the professionals around me. How could I forget how truly dedicated the journalists I knew were to the concept of balance? How could I fall prey to claims that they were somehow the enemy of truth?
When I did finally come to my senses, I realized that my own arrogance led me down that path. I was, quite plainly, abashed at my folly. I have always claimed to be a truth seeker and here I was, choosing to NOT listen to dissenting voices. How had I let this happen?
The irony of the answer is that while I was ranting incessantly about the bias of the “liberal mainstream media,” I was the very one knowingly and purposefully seeking out only news tailored to my OWN biases. Truth seeker? I think not. and so I changed. I resolved to doggedly dig into stories and really try to hear all sides (there are rarely only two), because failure to do so is exactly why fake news can proliferate. Don’t like the facts, simply go shop for a site that will give you “alternative facts”.
So how do we treat the fever?
I’m not sure I have a complete answer but one thing I know with certainty. We must start by choosing, as citizens, to stop actively distrusting the institutions that helped shape us into one of the greatest nations that has ever existed, otherwise we will destroy this country and everything it stands for. We must stand as a house united and unity requires trust and respect. Failure to do so will drive us further into partisan division made more rigid by a refusal to earnestly seek to understand other points of view.
George Washington famously warned of the danger of love for party overriding love of country. I am sick at heart to be a witness to the sagacity of his insight. I love America the beautiful, land of the free and home of the brave. I certainly hope she can survive this threat to her very soul. And I’m not talking about Trump here. I’m talking about the real problem, that rampant fever, that destroyer of nations: Distrust.